You begin your Sunday afternoon by arriving downtown. You’re strolling down a street with magnificent historic buildings to your left and right. You step into a local tavern and grab an Irish Whiskey. You continue by stopping into the cutest bistro for their phenomenal duck hash. You end your lovely adventure by enjoying vanilla bean ice cream topped with a sweet glaze - I think we’d all agree that this afternoon sounds like perfection! I am lucky enough to say this is how I spent my Sunday afternoon, thanks to Knoxville Food Tours.
Just before the tour, I got to chat with a few of the others that would be dining with me for the day. As I got to the eighth, ninth and tenth member of our party, I soon realized I was surrounded by couples; I began to feel like I had just boarded Noah’s Ark. However, I don’t believe Noah provided quite the dining experience that Paula, our tour guide, did.
Paula began our tour at the visitors center inside Visit Knoxville. Here we got to experience Norris Dam Good BBQ sauce, Tennessee Toe Jam and Goodson Brothers coffee.
They had slow cooked Lil’ Smokies in the Norris Dam Good BBQ sauce. What I liked about it was the sauce doesn’t cover up the meat. It simply added an additional flavor.
They provided cream cheese smothered in Tennessee Toe Jam. As I scooped a bit onto my cracker and took a bite, I felt like I was having breakfast at the farm table with my grandma, eating her homemade jam. That would make sense considering the fact that the jam comes from farm to table, a third generation farm to be exact. From the beginning, the whole idea of Tennessee Toe Jam was to create something that felt like home.
Before we headed out into the frigid cold, we each grabbed a freshly brewed cup of Goodson Brothers coffee. It was the flawless addition to our first stop.
We then headed to Clancy’s Tavern. As I stepped in, my eyes were drawn to the beautiful wood and rugged brick details. Paula explained that the Clancy brothers were woodworkers, and they also used restored historic brick from other downtown places to create their rustic feel.
As we walked to our table and saw plates of Steamed Ruben Sandwiches, Pub Spuds and Whiskey Chicken Pizza, we all began drooling.
The Steamed Ruben sandwich consists of marble rye, corned beef, swiss, sauerkraut, and thousand island dressing. It wasn’t like any Ruben I’ve eaten before; this one is definitely at the top of the list!
The Pub Spuds consist of crispy new potato skins, scratch-made cheddar filling, rashers, Irish farmer’s sausage, green onions and sour cream. As everyone began biting into their Pub Spuds, you could hear “This is so good!” and “Oh my gosh!!” responses coming from all ends of the table.
The Whiskey Chicken Pizza consists of Irish whiskey sauce, fried chicken, red onion, mozzarella, cheddar, Benton’s bacon and green onions. The pizza was quite unique and obviously a fan favorite. When one man bit into his piece he said, “I wish they served the whiskey sauce in a glass so I could just drink it.” When we walked into Bistro at the Bijou, I was overwhelmed with the history of the building. As we made our way to the table, a Bloody Mary was awaiting each of us at our seats. As one man begins gulping down his Bloody Mary he says, “I wasn’t a Bloody Mary drinker before, but I might just be one now!”
We were then greeted by the owner, Martha. She served us a sweet potato and duck hash collard greens and a poached egg. It was beautifully crafted!
Our server explained to us that the chalkboard specials consist of what’s on hand. The produce comes from the owner’s garden - and who doesn’t love locally grown food? They also have jazz nights that are something worth dropping by for.
As I stepped into Dazzo’s Pizzeria, the first thing I noticed was the colorful and countless concert posters filling the majority of the wall space. We were soon greeted by Martha again. She told us that she made friends with her neighbor who owned Dazzo’s at the time. The owner eventually sold it to Martha, along with his recipes. And let me tell you, I am definitely thankful for that. Once you take a bite full of their pizza, you will be shaking your head in agreement too.
I have to begin by admitting to the fact that I am not pizza’s biggest fan. However, the Grandma’s Pizza has forever changed that. This is by FAR the best pizza I have ever had! What makes the Grandma’s Pizza special is the sauce. The sauce is lower in sugar and salt but higher in oils. I promise you, you will not be disappointed at Dazzo’s.
Next, we headed past Market Square and into the lovely Tree and Vine. Here we found an abundance of aged balsamic and oils. They literally have it all - from mushroom, herb infused, citrus infused oils, bacon infused, chipotle infused, butter infused, even balsamic that have been aged for 15 years in wooden barrels.
My favorite part was when they asked if we wanted some vanilla bean ice cream to go with our balsamic. I began thinking, “this seems like one of those concoctions you make when you’re little and there are no parents around.” To my surprise, my taste buds felt like they were witnessing a glorious revelation! Overall, Tree and Vine is a must to check out!
Even if you just had a five-star meal or your momma’s homemade soup and cornbread, I bet you’re hungry after reading about all of these delicious foods. The next time you need a creative date idea, you simply want to explore downtown Knoxville, or maybe you just want to eat like royalty, then this is definitely for you.